Textile manufacturing is one of the most polluting aspects of the apparel industry.
Over 8,000 chemicals are used in textile manufacturing. Some of the most commonly used dyes are known carcinogens. An estimated 20% of industrial water pollution is attributed to the textile manufacturing industry. Major industry players are often not transparent about what chemicals are used, and we do not have sufficient understanding of the impacts of the thousands of chemicals used on human and environmental health.
Workers – and their communities – are exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, reproductive health problems, and other diseases. Waterways in manufacturing countries are so toxic they cannot sustain life. In some communities, locals know what the “It” color of the season is based on what color the river is.
And once clothes make their ways to the homes of consumers, residual chemicals on the clothing can affect the wearer. Now just imagine how these chemicals may affect the most vulnerable members of our society: babies and children.
Carter's is the leading retailer of baby and children's clothes in the US, but they are not a leader in transparency around toxins in their clothing.
We are calling on Carter’s to adopt a strong publicly-available chemical management policy to help protect its workers and its consumers - the tiniest humans who wear its clothes – starting by disclosing what chemicals it is using in its supply chain. Carter’s has told us that it has an internal restricted substances list (RSL) regarding chemicals that end up in its clothing – but has failed to make that list, or its chemical policies public. So, we have no way of knowing what chemicals are present in the Carter’s clothing worn by infants and children.
And, an RSL does not protect the workers in the factory who are making the clothing. To protect workers and communities, leading companies have started adopting Manufacturing Restricted Substances Lists (MRSL), which ban/restrict chemicals that are used during the manufacturing process. Because of the long manufacturing process, chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process may not end up on the final product – so workers and manufacturing environments may be exposed to chemicals that do not end up on store shelves. That is why it is important for Carter’s to adopt a chemical management policy that affects all aspects of its supply chain, and to make those policies public. We also want Carter’s to develop plans to restrict/replace the most toxic chemicals with safer alternatives, and publicly report on its timeline and progress in reducing toxins in its clothes.
What we know:
- Carter’s has one line of baby clothes that are made with GOTS certified organic cotton – but has not shared plans to clean up the rest of its baby or children’s clothes.
- Carter’s does not use flame retardant chemicals in its baby sleepwear, but we don’t know what – if any – other restrictions on chemicals there are, either in the manufacturing process or in the final article of clothing.
- Carter's clothing is manufactured overseas, and the bulk of their clothing is manufactured in Cambodia, China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, all countries that experience problems with polluting factories and poor labor conditions for many workers.
- Carter’s is on a taskforce that helped develop an RSL for the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) – but the AAFA notes that full or partial adoption of the RSL is voluntary. Carter’s has told us it has some form of internal RSL, but it is not clear what chemicals are covered, nor what Carter’s is doing to address chemical management in the rest of its supply chain.
- Carter's does not publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, which would help the company to measure, understand, and communicate its performance on environmental, social and governance measures; set goals in these areas; and measure progress towards those goals. A CSR report is the place where Carter's could provide greater transparency regarding chemicals used in its supply chain, policies for addressing them, and goals for eliminating the most toxic chemicals.
Green America reached out to Carter’s in 2018 and 2019 asking the company to provide details about its chemical management policies, but the company declined to do so, and responded to inquiries with the message: “Thank you for contacting us. We have an internal restricted chemicals list that we are working on expanding. We are also actively assessing how we can better disclose this and other environmental, social, and governance-related information to our customers and the general public.” Carter's customers deserve better than that. They deserve to know what toxins may be in their children's clothes and what Carter's is doing to eliminate those toxins.
Carter’s is a leader in selling baby clothes in the country. Join us in encouraging them to become leaders in cleaning up the company’s supply chain and producing clothing that is better for people and the planet.